By Craig Rondinone SportsTicker Staff Writer
JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (Ticker) -- After starting the season with 14 consecutive victories, the Dallas Mavericks finally lost their first game of the season Thursday to the Indiana. The next thing they will lose is a little fantasy value.
The Mavericks are the greatest show on the planet since the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus, but all good things must come to an end, and while Mark Cuban's boys will continue winning a fair share of games, the best Mavericks on the team will see their fantasy values dip.
How? Why? Two reasons. The first is that Dallas has played at an extremely high level during the first five weeks of the season, a level that will be impossible to stay at for the entirety of the season. Dallas' core players are putting up career-best numbers in certain categories, and history suggests those numbers will slowly slide.
The second reason is that many Mavericks have seen their statistics go up because Nick Van Exel and Raef LaFrentz have been out of the lineup for the past couple of weeks with injuries. That has meant more playing time and more scoring opportunities for the top Mavs, and you do not have to be an algebra expert to realize that the formula of more minutes plus more shots usually equals more points, rebounds and assists. But the injured pair will be back shortly.
Here is what fantasy owners have received so far from arguably the four most valuable Mavericks and what they should expect from these players from this point on:
Michael Finley: Finley's numbers have been all over the place. He is shooting more often and converting a better percentage of three-pointers, but he is shooting worse from two-point range, causing his field-goal percentage overall to suffer and his scoring average to stay the same. Got all that? You will be quizzed in five minutes.
Finley's rebound totals (seven per game) are at a career-high, but his assist numbers (2.8) are down from what they have been in the past. So he is hitting the glass harder and preferring to shoot rather than pass. Gotcha.
Finley's rebounds should come down once LaFrentz returns, and his shot chances should go down, too, once Van Exel returns. But look for Finley to start hitting more of his shots when he is not forced to shoot as much, and his assists should increase once there are more people to pass to. All in all, Finley's value should stay about the same, with everything equaling out everything else. Make sense? Hope so.
Steve Nash: Has been putting up numbers across the board that are slightly better than what you would expect as he has been one of the main reasons for Dallas' lightning quick start. His numbers will drop a tad when Van Exel comes back, but not enough that you should think about dealing him.
Dirk Nowitzki: Germany's greatest export since Bratwurst has been one of the top-five players to have in fantasy hoops. His scoring is about the same as it was last season, but the big difference has been in his rebounding and assisting, where he is on pace to set new career-highs in both categories if he keeps putting up the stats he is putting up now.
Van Exel and LaFrentz could put a teeny-weeny dent into Nowitzki's numbers, but the one thing that could cause his fantasy value the most harm is his sore Achilles, a problem that could hamper him for a while.
Shawn Bradley: This seven-foot, six-inch cavalcade of arms and legs has been one of fantasy basketball's biggest surprises, and not because of his size. He has doubled his output from last season in points, rebounds and blocked shots thanks to improved play and, more importantly, because he is playing twice as much. He is averaging 11 more minutes of game time than he did in 2001-02.
So will Bradley continue playing like the poor man's Bill Russell? You would get better odds if you bet on Anthony Mason winning a congeniality award. Once LaFrentz gets back in the lineup, Bradley will be hard pressed to keep playing 25 minutes a night. Trade him now while you can still fool an owner in your league into thinking he is worth something.
Week Six Preview: Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Indiana, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, Phoenix, Sacramento, Toronto, Utah and Washington all play four games next week, while Detroit, New Jersey, Seattle and the Los Angeles Clippers only play twice. The rest of the teams in the league are scheduled for three contests.
Miami plays all of their games on the road, which is not good news for Travis Best owners. Best has been at his best at home this season, but is averaging half as many points per game on the road. Let him ride your pine. And get ready for some fireworks between two of the most scintillating rookies in the NBA next week because Cleveland and Chicago face-off twice, meaning we get to watch Dajuan Wagner and Jay "Don't Call Me Jason" Williams go mano-on-mano.
Three players who are making fantasy owners grin:
Allan Houston, Knicks: Houston is currently averaging 24.5 points per game, which would annihilate his career-high scoring average for a season.
Michael Jordan, Wizards: His "Airness" says he wants to play more, and what Michael wants, Michael gets.
Andre Miller, Clippers: Different coast, same success for the Adam Oates of fantasy basketball. Mr. Assist is averaging 9.8 of them and over 22 points in his last five outings.
Three players who are making fantasy owners chagrin:
Corey Maggette, Clippers: Maggette was a trooper for the first month of the season, playing well despite being in pain, but now he is sidelined for the next four-to-six weeks due to knee surgery.
Bimbo Coles, Cavaliers: Two words - Dajuan Wagner. Five more words - Bimbo, sit on the bench.
Tyson Chandler, Bulls: Young Chandler is starting but playing less than 20 minutes per night. Why bother starting the kid at all, Bill Cartwright?